Sculptors and painters decorate the walls of a pharaoh's tomb with drawings and hieroglyphs. For almost 30 centuries—from the time Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt united to become one kingdom in around 3100 BC, to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC—ancient Egypt was the dominant power in the Mediterranean world. From the pyramids of the Old Kingdom to the temples and tombs of the New Kingdom, from mummies to hieroglyphics, Egypt has long fascinated people. The archaeological study of ancient Egypt even has its own name: egyptology. Egyptologists have learned much about ancient Egypt not only from the many monuments, paintings and other objects that have been been discovered, but also from deciphering hieroglyphs and other written records. From all this, we now know that Egypt was an incredibly rich civilization that made great steps forward in every area of human knowledge, from the arts and sciences to technology.
The name “Egypt” comes from the Greek Aegyptos. This was the way the ancient Greeks pronounced the name the Egyptians themselves gave to their country: Hwt-Ka-Ptah ("House of the Spirit of Ptah”—Ptah was one of the earliest of the ancient Egyptian gods). In the early Old Kingdom, Egypt was known as Kemet, or “Black Land”, after the rich, dark soils formed by the annual flooding of the River Nile and where the first settlements began. Later, the name Misr, or “Country”, came to be used. It is still the name modern Egyptians call their own nation today.
Royal mastabas (tombs) of the Archaic Period are surrounded by smaller ones belonging to servants. It is thought the servants may have taken their lives when the king died so they could continue to serve him in the Afterlife.
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